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Philippine air force grounds Huey helicopters after crash that killed 9, officials say

Philippine air force grounds Huey helicopters after crash that killed 9, officials say

The Philippine air force grounded its Vietnam War-era Huey helicopters Sunday after one crashed on a busy street while landing in a central city after combat training, killing nine people, officials said.
The UH-1H plummeted out of control while landing and crashed on a street outside an air base in Lapu-Lapu city on the central island of Mactan on Saturday afternoon, pinning a motorcycle taxi and hitting another near a public market, air force officials said.
All seven people riding the motorcycle taxi with a sidecar were killed while a driver and a commuter were wounded in the other. The crash killed one of two veteran pilots and one of two crewmen of the helicopter. It had been involved in advanced combat training in a nearby mountainous area, the officials said.
Most of those who died on the ground were commuters on their way home, and included a fresh college graduate looking forward to starting her first job. The air force said it would shoulder the cost of their burial and extend other help to their families.
TV footage showed the wreckage of the helicopter lying in the middle of a street as ambulances, their sirens wailing, arrived. Nearby, a man covered with newspapers a pile of bodies near a flattened motorcycle as throngs of residents watched.
Brig. Gen. Arthur Mancenido, commander of the 205th Helicopter Wing in Mactan, said 41 Hueys nationwide _ the air force's work horses _ were indefinitely grounded pending an investigation to determine the cause of the crash.
Officials refused to speculate on the cause of the crash but an air force officer said the pilots suddenly encountered engine trouble at an altitude of about 400 feet (122 meters).
Investigators were trying to determine if the accident was caused by flying kites after they found nylon cords used in kite-flying coiled in the mast assembly, the part that connects the main rotor to the helicopter's body, he said.
As the helicopter went out of control, the pilots tried but failed to maneuver it away from houses toward a basketball court area, according to the air force officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The helicopter hit power cables as it crashed, causing a power outage, radio reports said.
Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was in Mactan to campaign for re-election, said the helicopter crashed in an area near where his two-van convoy, which was carrying another senatorial candidate and a military general, passed shortly before.
"If we were late by a few seconds, we may have been hit by the helicopter," Lacson told radio DZXL.
The near-death experience made him think of his mortality. "I realized we're very vulnerable, we could meet accidents and leave this world anytime," he said.
In one of the Philippines' worst helicopter crashes in recent years, nine people, including the government's chief's volcanologist, died when their Huey slammed into a steep ravine in 2005 due to bad weather and the pilot's unfamiliarity with the terrain in the country's mountainous north.


Updated : 2021-03-03 07:51 GMT+08:00